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Showing posts from 2012

Googleopoly Next Moves

I enjoyed this refresher on FTC Act Section 5 which convincingly argues against its use for claims that might otherwise fail under, or just alongside of Sherman Act Section 2. Section 5 gives the Commission power to
"… prevent persons, partnerships, or corporations, except [a list of exceptions defined in other statutes], from using unfair methods of competition in or affecting commerce and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce." 15 U.S.C. §45(a)(2) As the post by Manne and Szoka summarizes, the FTC has sought to expand its use of Section 5 under cover of various theories, though recent success has come via consent decrees rather than in the courts. Scholars have debated the expanded use of Section 5 for decades, though little has come in the way of definitive legislative or judicial clarification.* The authors argue that with successful expansion of Section 5 in the courts, "the agency would again threaten to become a second national legislatu…

More Trouble With Blanket Tech Analogies

Hadn't blogged in a while, this article using the feudal analogy for our relationships with Internet service providers seemed ripe for some quick, caffeinated midday comments. The article's main point is that we are merely vassals to our feudal big tech lords, hoping for the occasional mercy and protection engendered by trust alone, voluntarily benefiting from the convenience and redundancy of ubiquitous, mostly reliable service without the headache of managing our own security configuration. And most of us tend be ok with that or maybe even consider it progress. Agreed, so far.

My primary gripe is the failure to analyze or contrast the companies' respective terms of service or actions with respect to very different products and relationships, which makes a scarier sum than the individual parts might reveal. It also misses the opportunity to point out areas most in need of change, not to mention many counter-examples of which the author must be aware. For example, he states…

Yesterday's Project

All year I've been telling myself I should start writing about coding on this blog, whether specific work on different apps or helpful resources for Ruby, Rails and other adventures. I've been telling myself a lot of other things this year too! I've mostly documented and semi-organized what I've been working on, it's just a bit scattered. One ongoing set is the Prepared.ly wiki which I've been trying to complete for easier consumption and to document its various features so it's easier to redeploy. I've also listed and summarized some of the coding projects here.

A feature request for the geribrewster.com online store came in, so I decided to make a Drupal custom module for it yesterday. It's posted on Github now, along with a related Rails app I've been playing with. The Read Me in the repository does a good job of explaining the business reason for it, and the code is commented with what's going on. More detailed coding posts to follow...

UDRP Refresher: JackAbramoff.com

This recent decision from the National Arbitration Forum (NAF)1 seemed like a good opportunity for a refresher on the UDRP.2  Former lobbyist and ex-convict Jack Abramoff lost in his attempt to recover jackabramoff.com from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).  The domain redirects to a page on the DCCC site asking visitors to sign a petition reminding "Abramoff that [they] remember his role in the Republican Culture of Corruption and will work to defeat ethically-challenged Republicans in 2012."  Also that he shouldn't attempt "to re-write history with a new book and media tour."

The decision came down to Abramoff's inability to establish trademark rights in his name as required by the first of three prongs in section 4(a) of the policy.3  In summary,
Complainant has provided no evidence of actual use of JACK ABRAMOFF as a trademark in connection with particular goods or services prior to the time Respondent registered the disputed do…

Imitate, Assimilate, Innovate

This post on Techdirt caught my attention this morning for a few reasons. The article outlines the contours of recent debates about "intellectual disobedience," a term used in this video by Nina Paley to combine 'intellectual property' and 'civil disobedience' into an unapologetic stance on copyright infringement for the sake of one's art. While today's copyright laws are certainly in need of more user-friendly reforms (for author and non-author users), I'm not quite ready to go down the abolitionist path that "intellectual disobedience" leads to. The occasional intellectually disobedient use of a work might not be covered by parody, satire, fair use or other (affirmative) defense but such edge cases are a necessary means for courts to (attempt to) clarify a law Congress isn't ready to reform. Taken to its extreme, "intellectually disobedient" use of others' work would be a free-for-all, devoid of even the possibility o…

Policy Statement About Compilations

I haven't posted about copyright in a while, and opportunity knocked via this morning's email newsletter from the Copyright Office. The office issued a policy statement about its examination of compilations, particularly claims of authorship in selection and arrangement of uncopyrightable material. I found it interesting for a number of reasons, primarily because of its potential deterrent effect on spurious copyright registrations in compilations of non-copyrightable facts or ideas. Below is mostly a summary with a few comments tossed in. The statement begins with a textual analysis of the Copyright Act, beginning with the definition of "compilation" found in §101:
A ‘‘compilation’’ is a work formed by the collection and assembling of preexisting materials or of data that are selected, coordinated, or arranged in such a way that the resulting work as a whole constitutes an original work of authorship. After a brief look at Feist, they cut right to the chase:
Howeve…

Summer Code Party at CfA

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On Saturday, we hosted an event at CfA as part of Mozilla's Webmaker campaign. It originally began as a continuation of the #OAHack that PLoS hosted (see post below) but the dates aligned and we were pleased to bring together the related ideas of the open web, open science and open access into one event.

The Presentation
John Wilbanks' started our day with a presentation explaining that if government is a platform, science is a wiki. In its current state, it's a terribly inefficient one, however. He shared some statistics on references to traditional versus open-published papers, such as the number and variety of citations resulting.  So why is science such a terribly inefficient wiki and what can we do to improve sharing, reuse, collaboration and ultimately progress?

First, open content. John noted the NIH's open access policy and how that's changed the playing field for scientists and in many ways for publishers too, although no publisher has presented adverse eve…

#OAHackday at PLoS

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Yesterday, I attended a mini hackathon at PLoS in San Francisco to discuss strategies and work on tools to encourage the adoption of open access and shared content policies at research universities, publishers and elsewhere. We hope the event will be the first of many and plan to hold a larger, multi-day event in late June. While some focus on open access to scientific research, it's really part of the broader movement toward opening our entire culture, whether viewed through the lens of OER, Creative Commons, open source software or shared open data.

Similar issues are back on the table in Congress with the re-introduced Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA), a bill that would require that taxpayer-funded research is made available to the public, similar to the NIH Public Access Policy. A competing bill in the House aimed at scrapping the NIH policy (to protect publisher's interests) led to a boycott of academic publisher Elsevier. The Right to Research Coalition is prom…

Posts in Other Places

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Here are recent entries I wrote on other sites:
Fast and Far, Together
This post on the Code for America (CfA) blog is a brief recap of the CfA Institute, the training program the Fellows completed before each team's February residency.  During my residency in Austin, the experiences of the Institute served as an invaluable reference during meetings, personal and team planning, responding to feedback, managing my own expectations and more.  Individually or as a team, there is a constant tension between competing visions of leadership and metrics of progress.

"To go fast, go alone.  To go far, go together."  My default starting point is to work alone, developing and vetting ideas before getting others involved.  This approach can have the unintended consequence of being seen as myopic, uncompromising or apathetic to the concerns of others.  Or, as an inarticulate braindump in search of an audience.  The issue is usually one of communication and framing, not the substance o…

Not similar at all

<start_rant> I'm constantly fascinated by the increasing accuracy of recommendation engines across the Web.  This includes everything from Amazon's finely tuned (commerce assistance/know it all personal shopper) to the simple "You Might Like.." tag- or topic-based links appearing at the end of many online articles to one of my favorites, the Music Genome Project and Pandora.  These solutions provide a never-ending fountain of entertainment and intrigue but often do little to break our habits.  I've been spending a lot of time thinking about the nature of how we teach ourselves, track our progress and build our lives into unique paths.  Or, how we form online habits.  Or habits online.  You get the idea.

For example, after seeing many familiar faces in Twitter's "Similar to You" sidebar, a little voice inside of me wanted an alternative "Not Similar To You At All" set of choices.  Many fascinating pieces have been written on confirmat…

Austin Adventures, Part 1

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I've been in Austin for the past three weeks as part of the Residency portion of the Code for America fellowship.  While wandering to the coffee shop today, I fortunately found the HOPE Farmers Market.  The thriving, communal atmosphere, along with a few familiar faces, made Austin feel like home for the first time today.  I'm not sure I'm ready to move here but it's nice to feel connected in a non-digital way.  We're all enjoying the three-day weekend in honor of Presidents' Day after three weeks of meetings, interviews, meetups, happy hours, presentations, special events... you get the idea.  I'm not complaining, of course.  The place we're staying does have a hot tub!

My market visit started with a few songs from Whiskey Shivers, a country/folk/bluegrass four piece band.  After seeing Redd Volkaert at the Continental Club yesterday too, now it's starting to feel like I'm in Texas.  The copious amounts of tasty BBQ also help.  Still, Austin i…